News Update on Defense 20171021 – France’s strategic security review, expansion of CT fight in Africa, SFABs, FORSCOM’s ‘Frontline’, AWOL Afghan trainees, Raqqa liberated, Iraq and Kurdish forces clash, CTC Sentinel (Oct issue), and more.
France and Defense. The geopolitical environment for France – a NATO member – has evolved over the past several years. The exit of the UK from the EU, Russia’s ever-increasing aggressiveness in eastern Europe, Jihadist terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa, and other factors have caused France to take a new look at its security and defense posture. To that end it has published a new document entitled Strategic Review on Defence and National Security, October 2017. Boris Toucas provides his insight on the new pub in “Understanding the Implications of Frances Strategic Review on Defense and National Security”, CSIS, October 19, 2017.
Fight in Africa to Expand? The ambush in Niger on October 4th that claimed the lives of four members of a Special Forces patrol has caused elected officials in Congress to seek a clarification on the U.S. military role in Africa. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis paid a visit to Capitol Hill to brief a couple of key senators on the topic. Senator Lindsey Graham (R SC) provided some insight. The CT rules under the previous administration were overly restrictive, the war is morphing, and there will be more US military activity. See “Graham: ‘The War is morphing,’ more military action possible”, Stars and Stripes, October 20, 2017.
CTC Sentinel – Oct Issue. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has published its October issue of the CTC Sentinel. Articles contained explore the nexus between crime and jihadism in Europe, Lisa Monaco talks CT, Islamic State’s external operations, ISIS chemical weapons efforts, the liberation of Hawija, and terrorist use of the Cyber domain.
SFABs – “Forever” or “Passing Fad”. The Army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigades activates soon at Fort Benning, Georgia. In an attempt to formalize and institutionalize the advisor capacity of the U.S. Army General Milley has directed the establishment of six Security Force Assistance Brigades or SFABs. The 1st SFAB is due to deploy to Afghanistan for the ‘train, advise, and assist’ mission. The SFABs will become a third leg of the advisory effort of the U.S. Army. The best known of these three efforts are the Special Forces units with its long history of Foreign Internal Defense (FID) missions. A recent construct is the Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) that are operating under the Regionally Aligned Forces (RAF) concept conducting large scale training and exercises around the world in addition to smaller-scale advisory missions in Africa. There are some important issues to be addressed on how the SFABs, SOF, and RAFs will work in conjunction with each other. Read “Proof of Concept: Big Questions the Army’s New Foreign Advisory Units Must Address”, Modern War Institute, October 20, 2017.
FORSCOM’s Weekly ‘Frontline’. The U.S. Army Forces Command weekly online issue (Oct 20th) is posted. Articles on hurricane relief, empowering AT coordinators, and more.
AWOL Afghan Trainees. A recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says that in 2016 over 13% of the Afghan military members who attended training in the United States went AWOL. Many seek asylum in the U.S. or Canada. See “Unacceptably high number of Afghans flee military training in U.S.”, Reuters, October 20, 2017. Read the SIGAR 27-page report here.
Iraq and Kurdish Forces Clash. Now that the Islamic State is on a downward spiral the ethnic groups in Iraq can resume their historical dispute over who controls what territory in northern Iraq. At stake are some major economic centers, military bases, and significant oil fields. The Iraqi government troops and Kurdish Peshmerga have been clashing as Iraq security forces enter the ‘disputed territories”. See “Rising tensions escalate into combat between Iraqi and Kurdish forces, allies in the fight against Islamic State”, Los Angeles Times, October 20, 2017.
SDF Liberates Raqqa. The Syrian city of Raqqa has been freed from the grasp of the Islamic State by the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) with a little help from the United States and its coalition partners. The U.S. has a battalion-sized task force of Army and Marine elements engaged in the advising, training, equipping, and mentoring of the SDF – a force mostly composed of Syrian Kurds. The task force nucleuos is a battalion of the 5th Special Forces Group (based at Fort Campbell) with some help from Civil Affairs, PYSOP, medical, logistics, and artillery units. Read more in “Syrian Democratic Forces Liberate Raqqa”, Department of Defense, October 20, 2017.